Senate confirms Trump court pick despite missing two 'blue slips'

Senate Republicans confirmed a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals nominee on Tuesday even though neither home-state senator returned a "blue slip" for the judge nominated by President TrumpDonald John TrumpEsper sidesteps question on whether he aligns more with Mattis or Trump Warren embraces Thiel label: 'Good' As tensions escalate, US must intensify pressure on Iran and the IAEA MORE
 
Senators voted 53-46 on Eric Miller's nomination, making him the 31st appeals judge confirmed since Trump took office in January 2017. 
 
Miller is the first circuit court nominee to be confirmed without a blue slip from either home-state senator, with neither Sens. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOcasio-Cortez top aide emerges as lightning rod amid Democratic feud Political 'solutions' to surprise medical billing will make the problem worse On The Money: Labor secretary under fire over Epstein plea deal | Trump defends Acosta as Dems call for ouster | Biden releases tax returns showing steep rise in income | Tech giants to testify at House antitrust hearing MORE (D-Wash.) nor Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellFAA nominee advances to full Senate vote Women lawmakers to play in Congressional Baseball Game following Title IX anniversary Hillicon Valley: Democratic state AGs sue to block T-Mobile-Sprint merger | House kicks off tech antitrust probe | Maine law shakes up privacy debate | Senators ask McConnell to bring net neutrality to a vote MORE (D-Wash.) returning the sheet of paper that indicates if they support him. 
 
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Murray warned minutes ahead of the vote that Miller's nomination was putting the Senate on a "very dangerous path." 
 
"Republican leaders are now barreling towards a confirmation vote on a 9th Circuit nominee, a flash point that, if it succeeds, will mark a massive departure from the long-standing bipartisan process that has been in place for generations," Murray said from the Senate floor.
 
Cantwell added that the "confirmation process has, I believe, gone against long-standing Senate traditions, norms and the role of advise and consent to his nomination."   
 
It's the latest escalation of a years-long fight over the blue slip, with Democrats accusing Republicans of trying to defang the minority by moving nominations without support from home-state senators. 

The blue-slip rule — a precedent upheld by Senate tradition — has historically allowed a home-state senator to stop a lower-court nominee by refusing to return the blue slip to the Judiciary Committee.

How strictly the precedent is upheld is decided by the committee chairman, and enforcement has varied depending on who wields the gavel.

But it's emerged as a flashpoint during the Trump administration as several Democratic senators have refused to return their paperwork on circuit court nominees from their home states, setting up a round of fights between Democrats and the White House.

Several circuit nominees were confirmed last year despite not receiving a blue slip from one of the home-state senators. 
 
Republicans also brought 9th Circuit nominee Ryan Bounds to the floor despite not receiving a blue slip from either Oregon Democratic Sens. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleySenate Democrat releasing book on Trump admin's treatment of migrants at border Sunday shows - Amash, immigration dominate Merkley on delaying endorsement: 'We have a different set of cards this time' MORE or Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHillicon Valley: Twitter says Trump 'go back' tweet didn't violate rules | Unions back protests targeting Amazon 'Prime Day' | Mnuchin voices 'serious concerns' about Facebook crypto project | Congress mobilizes on cyber threats to electric grid Top Democrat demands answers on election equipment vulnerabilities Advocates frustrated over pace of drug price reform MORE, but his nomination was withdrawn after Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottGOP put on the back foot by Trump's race storm Fox personalities blast Trump's remarks Romney won't say if Trump's attacks against minority lawmakers are racist MORE (R-S.C.) indicated that he wouldn't support him. 
 
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted out Miller's nomination along party lines earlier this month. 
 
Democrats were infuriated when Republicans held a hearing for Miller during the October recess last year when most lawmakers were out of town.
 
GOP aides argued that Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinThe peculiar priorities of Adam Schiff Dem senators demand GOP judicial group discloses donors Senate Democrats skipping Pence's border trip MORE (Calif.), the top Democrat on the panel, had agreed to the dates, but Democrats say they did not agree to move forward if the Senate was not in session.
 
 
 
"He will make decisions on our nation's most important issues and will have the power to change Americans' lives," said Sen. Catherine Cortez MastoCatherine Marie Cortez MastoHouse Democrat's bill would facilitate electric car chargers at all national parks Democratic senators want candidates to take Swalwell's hint and drop out Harris, Schatz have highest percentage of non-white staff among Senate Democrats MORE (D-Nev.). "Yet this Republican leadership believes a five-minute hearing is enough for a circuit court nominee who doesn't have the support of his own home-state senators."
 
Republicans have dismissed Democratic complaints, noting that Democrats, led by then-Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidSteyer's impeachment solution is dead wrong The Hill's Morning Report - House Democrats clash over next steps at border Democrats look to demonize GOP leader MORE (D-Nev.), got rid of the 60-vote filibuster for lower court nominations in 2013, ensuring an appeals judge could be confirmed by a simple majority.
 
 
"All in all, his classmates, many of whom have also been his colleagues over the years, say that Mr. Miller is, 'extraordinarily well-qualified' to serve as a federal judge," he said. "I would urge each of my colleagues to join me in voting for this fine nominee soon." 
 
Grassley also sent a letter to Murray and Cantwell late last year saying they had not returned their blue slips but also not given any "substantive reasons for your opposition."
 
"My preliminary conclusion is that the White House staff attempted to engage in meaningful consultation with you but that their engagement was not reciprocated," Grassley wrote in the letter. "I believe the White House engaged in meaningful consultation with you regarding the Ninth Circuit vacancy in Washington."